Inclusivity in a phygital organisation

Deeply tied to a phygital organisational culture today, is inclusivity. Information technologies have no opinions and are agnostic. How they are deployed within an organisation however, can impact employees sense of inclusivity. For example, management handing down their laptops to lower functioning roles can lead to a sense of people not feeling included as part of the organisation, or as less important. Even colours used in applications can impact some cultures. A heavy usage of yellow for example, may make some of Indian culture think of funerals as yellow is a colour representing death in India as blue is in Chinese culture. Expectations on the use of company information technologies may impact how employees feel included in the organisation as well. Such as weekend use and the expectation to be answering emails on a Saturday for those who are Jewish and may observe Shabbat on Saturday, when they aren’t supposed to use electronics.

One example of inclusivity that may seem trivial, yet had a huge impact on how employees saw themselves within an organisation, was in regard to email addresses. Senior management had an email address that represented the parent brand, while employees and lower management had email addresses for different brands. The employees felt lesser and not part of the main brand they felt more empowered by. This caused ongoing friction between employees and management. Management resisted making any change for a long time. Eventually, with the intervention of the CIO and HR executive, all employees were given the same email address. The impact on morale was profound in a positive way. Small things can lead to big things.

 

In any organisation where information technologies are a key part of an employees’ job performance, issues of culture, ritual and inclusivity will play a key role in how people perceive, accept and work with the tools they are provided.

 

For decades, the development and deployment of information technologies has been made from the perspective mostly of the developer of the tools and the requirements of the buyer. People have been seen simply as “users” rather than humans. The word “user” is in itself, an abstract term that creates a sense of disassociation between the human designing the technology and the human that has to use it every day at work. The user has simply been viewed as a functional part of the system, yet it is the humans which cause the most problems with information technologies. And as we’ve touched on, humans are quirky and will do unexpected things with technology.

 

By taking a more human-centred approach to information management, we look at the people using these tools not as “users” but as humans. It changes how software and hardware are designed, developed and deployed within an organisation. A significant tension always exists in how an information management person sees the best solution and the humans on the other end who use the tools.

More Thinking: You might also enjoy this article on why deleting technology in your organisation can be helpful.

About the Author Giles W. Crouch

Giles Crouch is a design anthropologist and CDO/CIO. He spent over 20 years in globally-focussed marketing communications for technology products and services, but his roots are anthropology in a modern sense. He uniquely ties his deep knowledge of technology, marketing, design thinking and design anthropology as a polymath to help clients seeking digital advantage in today’s complex world. Giles has been regularly interviewed by international news media on topics such as social media, blockchain, artificial intelligence and it’s impacts on society. He is a passionate practitioner of design thinking and anthropology. Giles is prolific writer and public speaker, lecturer and keynote. He has also completed over 250 netnographic research projects since 2009. His secondary activity is as Group Publisher with Human Media Inc.

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